We raise goats the hardest way: humanely, always on pasture, mirroring the lives they’d live in nature, but with better care and better protection from predators. No other commercial-scale goat dairy in North Carolina bears the Animal Welfare Approved certification, and very few do nationwide. We make beautiful cheeses which in three years have found a market from New York’s Hudson River Valley to New Orleans. In those three years, we’ve discovered some bottlenecks and business challenges. We have the most milk in summer, but wholesale cheese orders (2/3 of our business) decrease a lot in summer. We currently make delicate cheeses with a short shelf life, which can’t wait until the wholesale market bounces up again in the fall and holidays. We've realized that we need to build an addition onto our dairy to enable us to age long-lived hard cheeses, which will ripen slowly during the slower summer months. We can't produce such cheeses with the facilities we have now. That's why we've launched this Kickstarter project.
Building a space to age hard cheeses will accomplish 5 important goals:
1. In summer, we can make hard cheeses that will keep for months, not weeks, and be ready for sale as the wholesale markets gear up in fall.
2. With these aging spaces, we can make goat blue cheeses. There's a lot of commercial demand for these, but not many cheesemakers in the country make a great goat blue cheese. We've demonstrated that we can do it.
3. With these aging spaces, we can also expand to making aged, mixed-milk (goat and cow) cheeses, which offer endless creative potential. By adding cows, we will create work opportunities for more young farmers, to raise dairy cattle to Animal Welfare Approved standards on nearby land to supply milk to Prodigal Farm for cheesemaking.
4. Adding cow milk also boosts long-term employment for young cheesemakers on our farm. Currently, our work is very seasonal, since we don’t milk the goats or make cheese in January and February. Cows produce milk on a different schedule than the goats, so we’d always have milk to keep folks working in the dairy.
5. Adding additional cheese styles will enable us to cross-market to our existing restaurant and cheesemonger customers, and to highlight different cheeses throughout the year as new aged cheeses get attention with their seasonal release dates. This also means we'll have a diverse array of cheeses at the farmers' markets year-round -- no more winter slump!
We need to build an addition onto our existing dairy. The addition will need to meet FDA requirements for sanitation and will include specialized systems to keep the aging cheeses at their happy range of temperature, humidity and ventilation. It will also include a tank for brining the hard cheeses, a space for drying new cheeses before aging, and specialized wooden shelving systems made from wood milled on our farm.
We've already been successful in building our dairy and getting it licensed; we have the experience it takes to design and build the aging space. Prodigal co-owner Dave Krabbe worked for 25 years in the New York area building, renovating and restoring homes. Thanks to Dave's experience, the Prodigal Farm dairy is beautiful and highly functional to work in, for a price far below what we would have had to pay an outside contractor. Prodigal co-owner Kathryn Spann worked for 15 years as a lawyer, both in government and in private practice. She has enabled Prodigal Farm to navigate the complex regulatory world surrounding dairy licensing, and has even helped to make new law which supports other small dairy folks in North Carolina. This means that most of the funding you provide will go to buying materials, from which we and our farmhands can build the aging space.
We have experimented over the past two years in developing hard and blue cheese styles, which have been well received. We have also consulted with our cheesemonger contacts in various cities, to ensure that our planned cheeses will be distinct in the market, and offer something special to cheese lovers near and far.
Kathryn has attended workshops devoted to the art of "affinage" (cheese aging) and the principles of constructing well-functioning spaces for aging cheese. We've visited dozens of other dairies' aging facilities. We have also interviewed numerous cheesemakers with established hard cheese experience, to complement our current well-recognized experience in making soft-ripened french cheese styles, and have identified talent to join our team.
We do this for you: creating a place where you can find unique and delectable cheeses, and can connect your family to a world of loving animals in harmony with nature. We invite you to join us as we work to further this mission.
All of these efforts have gained us a lot of attention, both for our cheeses and for our roles in the community.You can learn more about us by having a look:
- Animal Welfare Approved Video
- Independent Weekly
- Daily Yonder Article
- Specialty Food Magazine
- Edible Charlotte article
- Tar Heel Traveler on WRAL
If we surpass our goal we will use additional funds to purchase milking cows which will form the foundation of our cow herd.This will make our farmhand Tom Harper jump for joy!
We've put a great deal of thought into rewards which are designed to create more bridges between our farm and the community, through taste, learning and time on the farm. If you think of another reward, let us know! Below, learn more about our rewards and the artisans who have teamed up with us to bring those rewards to you.
We're honored that some of the chefs to whom we provide cheese are lending their art to support our project. These include:
Chef Sean Fowler of Mandolin
Chef Jason Smith of 18 Seaboard
Chef Carrie Schleiffer of G2B Gastropub
Potter Evelyn Ward lives in nearby Hurdle Mills, North Carolina. She makes functional salt-fired pottery for the home. Evelyn earned a BFA from Cal State Fullerton and studied at Penland School of Crafts. Her work can be found in galleries around the Triangle including North Carolina Crafts Gallery and Cedar Creek Gallery. Each of her whimsical goat mugs is hand-made on a potter's wheel and salt fired, and has a beautiful feel in the hand. Each goat is drawn by hand so no two are exactly alike. The mugs are made from durable stoneware pottery and are safe for both dishwasher and microwave. They hold approximately 12 ounces. One of them is Dave's favorite mug for his daily coffee addiction! Learn more about Evelyn and her craft at evelynwardpottery.com.
The King's Daughters Inn Bed & Breakfast is owned by Colin and Deanna Crossman, who share our vision of community and sustainability, as well as our commitment to the highest standards of quality. Their gorgeous Four-Diamond inn, across from Duke's historic East Campus, embodies graciousness and glamour, and has been repeatedly recognized for their green building and operating practices.
Prodigal Farm T-Shirts
We really do have the best-looking farm T-shirts! They're 100% cotton, in a very silky fine knit. They come in "girlie" sizes S/M/L, and "unisex" sizes S/M/L/XL/XXL/XXXL, as well as kids' S/M/L. Kira, below, is modeling our logo front design; we also have awesome ones with the logo on the back and "Plays Well With Udders" on the front -- perfect for a humane-certified dairy, yes?
• to gifted and grounded videographer Kathryn Rende, for capturing our farm and community in their rough-hewn splendor
• to Alison Flinn and Lauren May of the Duke University Fuqua School of Business, for their tireless discipline in focusing on the bottom line, and for their patience when I was physically frail
You can now find our products at a growing array of locations near and far:
- The South Durham Farmers’ Market
- The Raleigh State Farmers’ Market
- The Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market 18 Seaboard • Raleigh, North Carolina
- Artisan Cheese Company • Sarasota, Florida
- Atlanta Wine School & Vino Venue • Atlanta, Georgia
- Battistella’s restaurant • Raleigh, North Carolina
- Bleu Olive Mediterranean Bistro • Durham, North Carolina
- The Bloomy Rind cheese shop • Nashville, Tennessee
- Bull City Burger & Brewery • Durham, North Carolina
- The Cheese Advocate distributor • Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia
- Cuban Liquor & Gourmet Shop • Shreveport, Louisiana
- Frog's Leap Public House • Waynesville, North Carolina
- G2B Gastro Pub • Durham, North Carolina
- Grazin' diner • Hudson, New York
- Green Button Farm CSA • Durham, North Carolina
- Herons • Cary, North Carolina
- Kitchen • Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- Mandolin • Raleigh, North Carolina
- Mystery Brewing Public House • Hillsborough, North Carolina
- Orrman’s Cheese Shop • Charlotte, North Carolina
- Pompieri Pizza • Durham, North Carolina
- Rose's Meat Market & Sweet Shop • Durham, North Carolina
- Saxapahaw General Store • Saxapahaw, North Carolina
- The Spotted Trotter • Atlanta, Georgia
- A Southern Season • Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- St. James Cheese Company • New Orleans, Louisiana
- Star Provisions • Atlanta, Georgia
- Tazza Kitchen • Richmond, Virginia and Raleigh, North Carolina
- Weaver Street Market • Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough, North Carolina
- The Wine Authorities • Durham and Raleigh, North Carolina
Risks and challenges
The main risks and challenges are those we already have faced successfully in building our dairy: the delays that weather injects into any construction timeline, and obtaining the NC Department of Agriculture's sign-off for the finished space. We have already obtained bids for those portions of the project that require outside work, and have discussed the regulatory aspects of the project with our inspectors at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, with whom we have a longstanding positive relationship. From the date footings are poured, construction can be completed within two months.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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